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Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes

Developer: Silicon Knights
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Action / Adventure
Players: 1
Similar To: Metal Gear Solid 2
Rating: Mature
Published: 04 :23 : 04
Reviewed By: John Green

Overall: 8.5 = Excellent

 

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There are two ways to approach Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, Silicon Knights' GameCube update of Konami's widely acclaimed PlayStation game. You can play it like a remake of one of your favorite games ever, or you can play it as a game you expect to become one of your favorite games ever. If you've already played the original, you're likely in the first camp, and, if you're deep in the first camp, you probably imagined Silicon Knights doing all sorts of unspeakable things to your buddy Solid Snake in their creepy digital laboratory. If you're in the second camp, you've probably heard enough to have pretty high expectations for Hideo Kojima's famous series.

Whichever camp you're in, you're probably also, if you don't mind extending the figure of speech further into metaphor, located in the campsite "Twin Snakes? Saw the movie." (Konami released a 27 minute trailer featuring what those who haven't played the game may assume to be every pretty CG cutscene in the thing). Luckily, I can tell you with confidence: there's plenty more where that came from. I watched that trailer three times within two days of its release, and while it is true that it contains many of the neatest moments, they are incredibly more awesome in context.

Something else I can tell you with confidence: if you're in the second camp (remember: haven't played the original, high expectations), like I was, you won't be disappointed. And while I'm not sure of how it stacks up to the original, it doesn't seem like they changed much, fundamentally. Yes, you can hop into first-person for some pinpoint shooting, and I think some camera perspectives may have changed, but I can't imagine these things really disappointing too many people.

The graphics are nearly Metal Gear Solid 2-spec, and the environments look perfect, with generally crisp textures. Character models aren't incredible, but it's only noticeable in closeups. The game looks exactly like it needs to












 

to do what it needs to do, and no lack in the graphics department ever detracts from gameplay - they are unremarkable, in both senses: they don't amaze and they don't underperform. It is apparent that Silocon Knights knew what it could do, and did that as well as it could do it, and this strategy, which I also consider to be employed in other games, like Sonic Heroes, makes for a very satisfying experience. When a developer doesn't overreach, you win.

You probably know the concept of the game, heck, you probably even know Konami's label for it: Tactical Espionage Action. Solid Snake must infiltrate a heavily, albeit dumbly, guarded base/weapons research facility that has been taken over by terrorists, learn what capabilities they have and whether or not they're lying in their threats, curse about their having unexpected capabilities, and then attempt to disable said capabilities. Not only will I not go further into the plot for spoiler reasons, but also, the series is well-known for being complex, not unlike a novel, and any attempt on my part to explain what exactly is going on would result in A.) exposure of my MGS ignorance, B.) big words and C.) confusion.

Unlike Tom Clancy's band of operatives, however, Snake is essentially a loner, although he does enlist the help of several NPCs he meets along the way. Luckily, Snake is blessed with a large movelist and a Codec (read: radio) to make up for his deficiencies in the companionship area. The GameCube controller handles handling Snake surprisingly well, and you never need to use the small D-Pad or C-Stick. The Control Stick handles moving, aiming, etc. Although the standard stick feels a bit too ... light and easy to move for the accurate aiming you'll sometimes need to do in first-person, it's plenty adequate for sneaking around. The large A-Button performs various context-sensitive actions, such as grabbing from behind, neck-snapping, shooting and body-picking-up. Y performs a different set of context-sensitive actions, such as calling an elevator or and climbing a ladder. B punches, and, when pressed against a wall, knocks on the wall to distract guards. X toggles between crouching, lying down and also causes Snake to drop from ledges. Z puts Snake in and out of first-person, and you can set it to either be a hold-down Z thing or a toggle thing (I used hold-down, and I hated it, as I often foundmyself missing the "sweet spot" on the wacky button, causing me to pop out of first-person and miss a shot).

The L and R triggers work perfectly with this game; someone knew what they were doing with the menu system. If you lightly tap one, the action you have specified [for example, quick equip/unequip] occurs, while if you hold it down, the inventory pops up onto the right or left side of the screen and the action pauses while you scroll up or down. This system is incredibly right-seeming, because the shoulders naturally have the two tactile responses that the system seems to imply - the light first half of the press and the solid second half, which I find so annoying in Melee, is a thing of beauty in Twin Snakes.

Through various combinations of movement and button presses, Snake can dive, hide in a locker, peer around corners and much more, but as the manual has pages and pages of such moves, I won't even try to list them all. Snake's no Sam Fisher, but I prefer my heroes with mullets, anyway (even though Snake doesn't sport that until Solid 2).

The sound in the game is a lot like the graphics - really, nothing stands out but it does a good job. Unfortunately, the game doesn't use the MGS2 version of the theme, and I found myself playing that in Winamp as I played Twin Snakes. The sound effects are well done, and you'll develop a Pavlovian reaction to the "discovered" sound - that shrill hwwwaaainh that plays whenever some dumb thing you did has alerted a guard to your presence. The voice acting is ... not wonderful. It's not disgusting, but it is bearable.

The guards themselves aren't incredibly clever, but that's not really a big deal. The game works well the way it does - the guards mostly following set patterns. If you're discovered they'll call in backup, but if you can stay hidden long enough the extra guys will leave and your regulars will trudge back to their standard paths. Once, I was seen by a sentry. I quickly dove under a parked supply truck, and I must assume at least one guard saw me do so. Backup was called and a search party was assembled. The guards (I think there were four at this point) played ring-around-the-rosy around the truck, stopping by the headlights and license plate periodically to peer inquisitively under the chassis. Although I could see their eyes, they apparently couldn't see me, and after a couple minutes, they left. I cannot honestly say that I would rather they had seen me, even though it would have made sense. They also shoot in an odd stop-and-go way, and once got stuck in an infinite "throw grenade" loop when I was hiding waist deep in water, pressed up against a concrete wall on which they stood, above me, looking out into the docking bay and lobbing grenade after grenade into the deep end.

Really, though, the AI works well with how it seems that Kojima wants you to experience the situations, and makes it easier to become familiar with the game. It makes you feel like a master sneaker, instead of a frustrated sneaker.

Another thing that helps you feel like an expert covert-operator is Snake's nifty radar, which is part of his whole Codec doohickey. You've probably seen it before: it's a little square with basic map features and enemy positions ... and, luckily, their current field of vision. Depending on your settings, it may or may not be available at different alert levels; it shows a receding bar as the next lowest level approaches, and, with it, your sight. Yes, it's that useful, probably moreso than simple old-school looking, because it allows you to notice what guards are doing on the other side of walls and other bothersome obstructions.

Often, on the other sides of these walls and obstructions, you'll find useful stuff like infrared goggles or a bomb detector - but most items are never forced on you - you'll have to search and backtrack to find many of them. The beauty of the thing is, though, that you don't need to find most of them. I never found the mine detector, and instead equipped my IR goggles to check for the buggers. You don't need to get the real-bullet sniper rifle; I made do with just the tranquilizer version. That's a great way to handle things.

The levels are also handled well, and although the overall movement is linear, there are often several ways to get from A to D or accompish X, and the "to kill or not to kill" question is everpresent. The majority of the game takes place inside the weapons facility, and once you've gained access to a section of the world, it's always open for you to backtrack to. This frustrated me at one point, when I spent about an hour searching for the way to advance, but, in general, you can move at a good pace if you want to. (Note: I also spent about an hour or so on the intro room, embaressingly.)

Usually, you'll gain access to a new place, sneak about, perhaps strategically employing one of your many weapons, which range from a pistol loaded with tranq rounds to remote-control and heat-seeking missiles, move into a hallway, avoid cameras or infrared beams, crawl into a duct or under a wall, sneak around some more in a larger space and generally carry on being a world-saving badass, fight a boss and get rewarded with a beautiful cinema sequence. This combination never gets tiring throughout the game, as you're constantly moving through new areas (except when you're not) and acquiring new gadgets or guns (except when you miss one). The plot is a beaut, with several interesting surprises, and would be enough to keep you going even without the well-done CG sequences and rock-solid tactical espionage action gameplay. It's hard to emphasize how well the CG sequences work with the game - it never feels like the game is taking over and kicking you out of the driver's seat, because, really, the game isn't about you - it's about Snake. I looked forward to the scenes as rewards after boss battles, and it's often a much needed relief to get to watch Snake finish off the boss some in spectacular way, safe in the assurance that you made it and, for the next couple minutes, nothing is expected of you, even while Snake gets deeper and deeper into the thickening plot.

After the first round of tactical espionage action is over, you'll want more. You'll beg the disc to have something for you. And ... it will! When you beat the game, you get an item that you can equip to have a special ... ability. Some aren't all that remarkable, but depending how many times you've beaten it and which ending you got, the item can be lots of fun (I got a bandana, which gives you infinte ammo, but you can get stealth camo if you play a certain way). In addition to replaying the game, you can also make it your goal to collect all the dogtags - the very dogtags that were the subject of the "Get Your Name in Twin Snakes" sweepstakes - by holding up enemies (sneak up on them and point your gun at them). And remember, kids, there's still MGS2 for you if you haven't played it (well, and even if you have)!

Overall: 8.5/10
So if you approach it as a game you hope will become your buddy, and bring with you expectations fostered by everything you've heard about Kojima and his masterworks, you will not be disappointed. If you approach the game having already seen the movie, you will not be disappointed. And if you approach the game as a remake, you should not be disappointed, as long as you don't mind going through game again, which, if you even are approaching this game after having beat the original countless times, you probably don't. The proven mechanics, the intriguing story, the outstanding cutscenes, the detail that went into making sure everything works together - these things are a strong indication that if you approach this game, you will not be disappointed. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is a very solid game, and although the pun is intended, it is perfectly appropriate.

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